Bad practice: educational technology

10th November 2000 at 00:00
Jack Kenny looks at all that's bad in educational technology and what we can learn from the experience

* Now listen in ... this is a mouse

Although only a pupil, Jimmy T created and maintained his primary school Web pages. He regularly scoured the Web for educational games, which he discussed with his teachers. At the end of the day he went round all of the school computers and ensured they were closed down correctly and that none of the configurations had been interfered with. At home he had written programs and created a multimedia presentation about Robert the Bruce that won a prize in a national newspaper. He helped his father do the accounts using Excel and he had made a simple film which he edited on his cousin's new Apple. Unfortunately, his time at primary school ended and he moved to secondary. His first lesson in the computer room started with the words:

"This is a mouse."

* Where next?

It was hoped that the national curriculum would put a stop to the practice of secondary schools ignoring all that went on in the primary school. Figures still show that children do go into reverse for a time when they go to secondary school. Why couldn't the first lesson be a needs analysis? It might frighten by revealing a diversity but it will give a good picture. At least no one will be able to pretend that pupils are all at ground zero.

* Don't run...walk and take them with you

The headteacher of a primary school saw for the first time an interactive whiteboard at a computer show. Only momentarily dismayed by the price, she was captivated by it. She felt that she could sell the idea to the parents' association and knew there was money from a local trust for innovation. The staff did not share her enthusiasm when they were told about the technology, feeling that the large amount of money could be better spent on other priorities. They could not dent the evangelical zeal of the head who had begun to see it as a way of "taking my school into the new millennium", stealing a march on other schools in the locality and boosting pupil numbers. After an exhausting amount of fundraising, four boards were bought. Three now stand, barely used, beside he ever-popular blackboards.

* Where next?

Most of the staff had basic levels of ICT literacy but resented the way that the boards were imposed on them. Consequently, they exaggerated the difficulties of using them. Would it have been better to introduce one board to one teacher who could see the possibilities and then demonstrate those to her colleagues?

* The right way to communicate

Recently the DFEE has been publicising the fact that 32 per cent of primary school teachers and 52 per cent of secondary school teachers have email addresses. Unfortunately, they do not know how many are being used. They might be interested in this story. At a meeting recently of primary and secondary school teachers, the convenor asked for their email addresses. Only one person was able to oblige and that was their personal email.

* Where next?

There are some counties where all communications between the LEA and the schools are already electronic. This is an LEA problem. They probably have to force the pace with schools and create an environment where email is the communication medium of choice.

* Nonsense at NOF

Some of the really bad practice is in institutions that should know better. Go into most nursery or infant schools and you will hardly be able to tell who are teachers, who are nursery nurses, who are helpers. They work as a team. Helpfully, the TTA and NOF have given you a way to find out. Just ask who is eligible for NOF training and who isn't. The nursery nurses (like supply teachers) are not eligible. Think of it, there are nursery nurses who are so good they can give training but they are not eligible to receive it.

* Where next?

TTA and NOF could change this, should change this. It doesn't apply just to nursery nurses but all assistants in schools, the very people who keep schools running, are not entitled to be trained.

We are looking for more genuine examples of bad practice. If you know of any, please email details to Jack Kenny at jack.kenny@who.netThe purpose of this is to encourage good practice, there is no intention to pillory any school or individual. All material that we use will preserve anonymity

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